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Signaling Support Structures: Creating Familia

This final strategy is about the implicit mechanisms that the departments have in place to signal that support will be available once the future faculty arrive. All three of the departments recognized that embedding these signals not only creates its own recruiting engine for future faculty but also, importantly, are retention strategies for their current faculty. These are hugely impactful in stopping the “revolving door syndrome” (Moreno et al., 2006), and in enhancing the resilience (Sutcliffe & Vogus, 2003) necessary in creating a strong familia.

Leadership Mentoring of Assistant Professors

Physics honed in particularly on the valuable mentoring that the chair distinctly provided the tenure-track faculty. During the interviews, it was evident that mentoring was a foundational expectation for their culture. Marie, an associate professor in physics, described her department climate as “healthy,” reflecting the challenge and support that exists, as well as balancing of expectations. Marie summed up her impressions of the climate:

I feel fortunate that we have a really collegial department overall. . . . It is like a healthy department, which is easier said than done, if you don’t have a healthy department. . . . When somebody comes for an interview . . . [during] most of their interactions they get a vibe that it’s a sort of healthy department. And people aren’t all being snide against each other and so all of that feeds into a friendlier sort of place. And I think that comes through, again, in the selection process on the search committee—helps a lot, and when people are interviewing.

She further elaborated regarding the expectations for mentoring and the ways in which the healthy climate positively impacts the faculty recruitment process:

I think . . . that our chair values mentorship—mentorship by more senior faculty of junior faculty', mentorship of graduate students. And he values teaching a lot too, which I appreciated when I came here because I was coming from a national lab staff scientist position where I had only' research responsibilities. And I consciously wanted to transition to a university position where I would have [both]. . . . Having a | healthy] culture and, in particular, probably I would imagine it comes up [with] the chair—during the candidate’s interview when they meet with the chair. I would imagine between teaching and mentoring, the sense that our current chair values investing in young people’s futures as a real investment. . . . Yeah, I think that helps [with recruitment].

It is clear from Marie’s insights that mentoring plays a significant role in signaling to potential faculty colleagues that they will receive the support they need to be successful, and that they are supported to meet all of their expectations equitably" research, teaching, and service/mentoring. According to Marie, there was no denying that interviewees would not gather a sense of a healthy and collaborative environment during their campus visits based on their overall departmental climate.

Informal Role Modeling: “If She Can Be Successful, So Can I.”

Chemistry, in particular, pointed to the success of their fellow women faculty as positive draws for other potential women faculty they' were trying to recruit. There was a sense that the prospective faculty could see how successful (i.e., thus supported) the women faculty were and felt a sense of relief that they, too, could be successful if offered the position. Luke, a longstanding faculty member, asserted:

I don’t think you have to look too much further on a map. Nicki, Diana, you know, and others so we have this cohort. There are a couple things about it. They seem to be happy here. They’re succeeding here. They’re winning the biggest awards in the country here. And 1 think that’s why we’re doing so well with recruiting, frankly.

As evidenced, he recognizes the value of seeing happy women with balanced lives being stars in the department, while not driving themselves into the ground. It was evident that the resilience present in the department, as evidenced by these successful female scholars, could transcend to their experiences as future scholars in that unit. When asked if he thought that having women faculty influenced their ability to recruit more women faculty, here is what Luke shared:

You know [one of our star female faculty] and I compete for students all the time. . . . The good news is that they [students| have actually said to me, “Well, 1 didn’t choose to work with one of them, but I’m sure much happier to be at Midwestern with them here.” . . . Again there is the role model idea or “Is this department going to be friendly to me as I work in it?” When you have strong people like that in the department you’re not so worried about being ostracized for your gender because, how would it happen?

Faculty members such as Luke are pointing to the necessity of creating familia in the departments. Basically, by creating familia, they are ensuring that minoritized faculty' do not feel isolated and can indeed be successful.

Seamless Transitions: Postdoc to Tenure Track

The departments implemented a practice to seamlessly transition postdoctoral scholars into tenure-track faculty positions in an intentional effort to signal departmental support. AS has most proudly' and successfully implemented this strategy'. While many of the other STEM departments at MU have recruited and hired postdoctoral fellows from the same programs, none except AS have made a tenure-track offer following the term of the fellowship to ensure continued success. However, to the AS chair, Marc, this is a critical signal in ensuring the future success of these fellows. Therefore, he works diligently to ensure that all faculty are included in the selection process and that there is a sense of collectivism regarding any off er that is made. Tracy, an assistant professor in AS, shared a brief insight into the new direction for post-doctoral hires: “[T]hey' are actually treating the next round of [postdocs] as a faculty hire.” Stella, an associate professor in AS, confirmed:

“| AJstronomical sciences is the only department where it’s been a post-doc position definitely followed by faculty.” Each of these faculty confirmed that the purpose behind this seamless process was to signal to the postdoctoral fellow that AS was deeply interested in them and, most importantly, invested in their long-term success. This is one of the strongest possible signals of support—written confirmation and mentorship in place, from beginning to end.

 
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